I dedicate this to my friend, Alex. The only one of my friends to ever read the story I spent many nights awake contemplating the development of our culturally diverse couple. Always nagging, she was the driving-force behind this. Pestering me to not give up, even when I doubted my abilities. if it wasn't for her, LCTM would have been abandoned long ago. Alex, thank you. My little story has been told, and I am content with it. I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

    The clouds gave a dark over-cast to the large city of Tokyo on the chilled October morning. Omnious thunder and lightening threatened a storm to be reckoned with, but in a large, up scale condominium in the Azu-juuban district, two sleeping figures were completely oblivious to this.

 

    ZoŽ McClain-Liu yawned and rubbed her eyes for a few moments, and slid her bulk from the side to her back, rubbing the slight bulge her belly had produced. Next to her, her husband, Shang Liu, shifted to his right side to face her. He gave her a sleepy grin, and kissed her on the cheek, his left hand, moving to her stomach.

    "And how are we this morning?" He moved closer, and wrapped his right arm under, to support her back, and bring her next to him. His head leaned on the crook of her neck, as he nuzzled her hair, right below her left ear.

She closed her eyes, and relaxed in his arms. "We're tired, and having a terrible craving for pickles and strawberries." She smiled.

    The cats mewed, and changed their positions on the bed of the large bedroom, as the lightening flashed in through the window, to the left of the large, oak bed of the traditional Chinese variety. ZoŽ shivered in her nightclothes, that consisted of what was once Shang's old volleyball shirt, and also formerly, Shang's boxer's. She pulled the fluffy, expansive white comforter closer to her head, and yawned once more.

    Shang's hand slipped under the shirt, and began to caress the skin underneath. He smoothed his hand over her chest and collarbone, her upper stomach, close to her breasts, but gave extra-special attention to the upward curve of her tummy. All the while, whispering naughty things in her ear, producing giggles, and squirms.

    "You hair tickles," she sighed in delight as he nibbled her ear, his now slightly long hair, brushing her face.

    All his response was a quick kiss on the lips, and snuggling back to their former position.

    "Try to get some sleep. We'll need it before the plane leaves tonight." He told her, muffled by the comforter and her hair.

    "Alright." She yawned once again, and they fell asleep, content with each other on the chilly Sunday morning in Japan.

 

...LCTM: The Aftermath...

 

    "I can carry it Shang. I'm not completely helpless." ZoŽ argued vehemently with her spouse, hands on her hips.

    "No. The doctor said not to strain yourself. You're in a delicate condition, and shouldn't be doing- Ouch! What'd ya hit me for?" Shang rubbed the place on his arm, that ZoŽ had, moments ago, smacked him.

    "Delicate condition my butt. I know what I can do. The Japanese are too cautious. This baby's American, and can take it." She "humph"-ed, and grabbed the carry-on bag, and roll-on suitcase. Then stomped off to the airport terminal, way at the other end of the Tokyo Airport, leaving Shang scrambling with the bags, and rushing to catch up with his perturbed wife.

 

    "Please keep aisles clear in case of an emergency. And thank-you for flying American Airlines." The American flight attendant finished, and sat down.

    "Shang, be a dear, and loosen my seat-belt for me. I'm just too fat to fit into this." ZoŽ sighed, and fiddled with her seatbelt.

    "You're not fat. There." He kissed her on the cheek, and looked at her for a moment. "Do you look like your family?"

    "Hmm, I look like my father, and a bit like my mother. Why?" She chomped into the candy bar Shang had brought with him to curb her over-whelming appetite.

    "Just wondering. What about your sister?" He leaned back in the chair and looked at her.

    "She looks more like my Mom, but we have the same nose, and are just as short. Though, she always makes fun of me for it, even though she's only an inch taller. She's a dork..." Zoe smiled fondly at the memory of he sister.

    "What's she like?" Shang asked as he fiddled with her hair.

    "Hmm. She's critical, and loves to argue, but very nice and loving. Sweet. And likes to point every fault out to you. I had to deal with eightteen years of that." ZoŽ laughed and leaned her head on his shoulder, taking his left arm captive, by entwining hers around his, and grabbing his hand. "Why? Worried they won't like you?"

    "No," Shang answered quietly, and looked to the other side of the plane.

    ZoŽ kissed him on the cheek. "Don't worry, they'll love you. You have more of a chance of not liking them, then them not liking you. And just to warn you, my father's a bit eccentric, and also a bit perverted at times, which explains why my parents are always hitting on each other. My sister's fiancť is from England, and also a big pervert. Geese, I'm surprised you aren't."

    Shang smiled evilly at her. "Oh lord..."ZoŽ sighed, and leaned her head back on his shoulder, closing her eyes, and falling asleep as the plane became airborne.

 

    "... and thank-you for flying with American Airlines. Enjoy your stay in Seattle, Washington." ZoŽ awoke for the last remnants of the pilot's farewell speech. She lifted her head, and rose from her seat, after unbuckling her seat belt. Grabbing the two items she had brought on-board, her and Shang quickly disembarked the plane, and sleepily scanned the gate entrance for ZoŽís family.

    "Typical they wouldn't come get us. Little buggers," ZoŽ cursed in English, and sighed.

    "Maybe we just haven't seen them yet," Shang linked his arm around her waist, and guided her to a less crowded area of the gate. Sunddenly, a voice called out to them, and it said:

    "ZoŽ Ashley McClain! Come give your Mum a hug." They turned around at the smooth Scottish accent to find a small woman of about fifty, with short auburn hair, and blue eyes smiling. She had her arms outstretched, and walked forward.

    "Mom! It's McClain-Liu." ZoŽ chastised, and quickly went to hug her mother.

    "What about ye Pa lass? Forgot about him as soon as this young lad came along?" A large man with hair so blond, it looked white, stood next to his wife, boomed his greeting to his daughter, and enveloped ZoŽ in a deep bear hug.

    "Never Pa." ZoŽ lapsed into her Scottish accent, and kissed her father's cheek.

    "Well, I knew you'd get that big when you're pregnant." Behind them, a woman of somewhat medium height smiled at her sister. She had the brightest blue eyes, the slightest bit slanted, and long hair of the deepest brown that reached her knees. It was kept in a think braid that fell over her shoulder. Next to her stood a tall, barrel chested man, with a strong jaw, and matching brown hair and eyes.

    "Hey sis." And the ritual hugging ensued.

    "Hi John," ZoŽ moved somewhat to the side, and patted the man on the shoulder, and he returned the gesture.

    "Anyway, everyone, this is Shang," ZoŽ walked over to her husband, and pushed him to where her immediate family was standing.

    "It's nice to meet to," Shang bowed, but stopped in mid-action, and blushed at his reaction.

    "We finally get to meet the lad ZoŽ decided to marry. And I must say, I could see why." Ms. McClain grinned, and hugged the startled Chinese man. He then moved down the line to his now father-in-law.

    "Aye! I expect you'll take good care of my little girl." Mr. McClain said in his usually loud voice, holding out his hand, and patting Shang on the shoulder, for what seemed to ZoŽ a bit too hard.

    Finally, when meeting Clara, the wide-eyed Shang looked back at his wife for some odd reason. ZoŽ suspected it had to do with something Clara said.

    "Uh, Mum, Pa, I think you're scaring him." ZoŽ told her parents quietly as Clara assessed Shang on his appearance and first impression.

    "Nonsense. He's just not used to it. Now let's go to baggage claim and get your luggage dear." Her mother told her in a matter-of-fact tone, and began to waddle off towards the exit of the gate, followed by her husband, and then Clara and John. Shang recovered quickly from the traumatizing experience, and they hurried to catch up.

 

    "So, what do you think of 'em?" ZoŽ whispered in her husband's ear as they all roamed the parking lot for the cars. A slight smile touched her face at the blanched expression that hadn't completely gone away since their first meeting.

    "Well, I'm certainly not used to people of this... character. Yeah, I think that's the right word. But I like them. I'd never find anyone like this back in Asia."

    ZoŽ chuckled. "That's for sure. But you just haven't been around me on any of my good days when I just had a pack of Skittles and some chocolate." And she patted his bum in a typical Scottish manner. You know those Europeans.

    "ZoŽ!" He whispered. "Not out in public!"

    She sighed. "Shang, this is America; it's second nature for people to fondle each other out in public. Well, alright, let me tell it to you this way. Things are different here in America. Since you've never been, it might be a bit shocking at first, but you'll get used to it. Don't worry, we're not all a bunch of crazies here in the good ol' U.S. of A. Just 99.9 % of the locals." She smirked, and speed-walked to her parents blue Subaru Forester, and began depositing her baggage in the back.

    "Ah, hell..." Shang muttered in Mandarin, and caught up to repeat ZoŽís action.

 

    The ride home went as well as could be expected, if even a bit traumatizing for Shang, the poor dear. The conversation mostly consisted of the in-laws asking questions, and Shang, with the help of ZoŽ, answering, of course, in his very best English. Finally, they reached the modest suburbs of Seattle, consisting of the middle-middle class. They came upon a two-story home, with trees, and shrubberies scattered in the back yard.

    Inside, it was plaid, plaid, and oh look, more plaid. Scottish knick-knacks adorned every shelf, and clear space. The front door opened to the living room, which had the stairs leading up to the second floor, before leading into the family room and kitchen. In the living room, two forest green couches sat against each wall, with the television between the two, against the wall parallel to the kitchen. In a basket with plaid cushioning near the entrance to the room, a black Scottish Terrier and three pups were cuddled. On the television, a random American football game played on.

    "Here ZoŽ, me and Shang'll get the bags. You sit yerself down. Can't be lifting too much in that condition." Her father winked, and guided Shang up the stairs to the rooms.

    ZoŽ huffed, and crossed her arms. " 'That condition,' " she mocked. "Condition my bloody arse. Why do men get like that when women are pregnant Mum. Annoys the hell outta me."

    Ms. McClain chuckled. "One of the mysteries of the universe darlin'. Now, you go unpack, and I'll start dinner. Potatoes, cabbage, and ham."

    "Yipee," ZoŽ mumbled. But under the scrutiny of her mother's gaze, she corrected herself. "Er, I meant yum." And she quickly left the room, and guided up the stairs.

    She could hear her father's booming laugh, and Shang's unsure one as she passed the guest room. She smiled evilly. Let Shang be left to his own devices for a while, would do him some good she decided. And strolled past the laughter, not sure what she was doing, but soon, she was aware.

    Oh lord, it's been a while... She thought in awe as she came upon her old room, left in perfect condition. She turned the switch to the right of the door, and smiled at what it revealed in the room. A small, single bed was against the farthest wall, underneath a window, lined by blue drapes. Her colorful pillows accented her lavender sheet, and pink covers. A desk, and some book cases lined the walls, but it was mostly a bare room. This as a result of her teenage obsession of Asia. When her parents asked what she was doing when boxing up her things, she simply replied, "In Japan, they don't have room for many things, meaning no clutter." And he sister just called her a "weirdo." But nothing new there.

    She went and sat down on the bed, clutching her belly. The springs creaked under her weight, and she smiled.

    "Well baby, this is where your Mommy used to spend her days. Rather plain isn't it?" She chuckled. "Yeah, now that look back on it, I was a strange teenager. No wonder I had no friends. Hmm, when you get to be a teenager, I'll let you do whatever you want to your room, I promise."

    "Talking to our unborn fetus again?" She looked up to see a smirking Shang in the doorway. He leaned against the frame, hair falling seductively over his eyes.

    "Good to see you haven't gone into shock." She retorted back, leaning her head down, as a part of her golden hair falling over left eye.

    "If I can put up with you, I can certainly put up with your family. They're actually refreshing after spending everyday with you, and your boring personality." He strode over to the bed and towered over her.

    "Well, I'm nothing compared to your pompous ass, and typical, arrogant Asian male attitude." She stood up, and looked up defiantly at him.

    "Oh, I'm hurt." He said sarcastically.

    "I'm sorry."

    "For what?"

    "That you're so wounded easily by a poor little woman's words." Check.

    He smirked back at her. "No, just coaxing your ego." Checkmate.

    She sighed, and sat back down. "I never could win arguments with anyone. I don't know why I even try."

    "It's alright baby. At least you put up a fight. That's more than any Asian woman could say." And he began nibbling her left ear, while lacing his arms around her shoulders.

    "I feel special. Oh, that feels nice. But stop, before my parents barge in." She patted his cheek as he pulled away with a hint of regret on his face.

    "But I thought here in the 'good ol', U.S. of A.' it's second nature."

    "Yes, but not in your parents house, when the door's open, just asking them to come see something they shouldn't. Don't worry, we'll have time later. "She smiled, and stood up, leaving his warm, physical company. "C'mon, let's go see if Clara and John are getting here soon. I'll show you the back-yard too." And she led him by the hand down-stairs, just in time for the end of the big game.

 

    "Score!!!" And insane laughter ensued. Followed by loud cheers.

    ZoŽ laughed, and patted her stummy. The cool, refreshing water of the pool caressed her bottom legs, relaxing her more than she had expected. Crickets churpped around her as day turned into dusk, the last of the sun dipping below the horizon. The sky became a dark blue, tinted with gold, purples, and reds where the last of the sunlight hit. In the backyard, she sat on the edge of the pool, soaking after she had stuffed herself silly at dinner. It had been a while, and she missed her Mum's cooking. Speaking of her family, the three men could be heard inside, whooping with delight at the American football game. Her mother and sister were assumed to be inside, discussing things ZoŽ didn't want to know about, but that's exactly what they wanted her to think.

    "Alright," A quiet voice told to another figure just inside the house, next to the sliding, "on the count of three. You got the fabrics and magazines? Alright, good. One, two-"

    "Wait. Do we go on three, or do we go slightly before, slightly after, or exactly after three?"

    "Hmm, good question. Wait, you're just trying to be coy young lady. One, two, three!"

    And they stood there.

    "Geese Clara, get movin'!"

    "Oh, right. I wasn't aware I was supposed to lead." And they headed out the sliding doors after one more count of three to ambush their subject, and decide on a color scheme, dress, and dishes to be served.

    ZoŽ groaned. "Mom, I thought we had agreed it wouldn't be formal. You know perfectly well I won't be able to fit into any of those dresses. We've already had a wedding banquet. How many more dresses do I have to fit into, how many more tuxedos must Shang wear until everyone accepts we're married."

    "Well, this just teaches ya lass, ye shouldn't have gone an' eloped." Clara nodded her head in agreement with her mother's statement.

    ZoŽ buried her face in her hands, and listened to her mother name off color schemes. Then she got a wicked idea.

    "Mum, I really don't see why you're wasting al your effort on me. I've already gotten married. Shouldn't you save the big, grand finale of the McClain clan daughters' weddings for Clara?" A deathly silence ensued from her sister, and a thoughtful one from her mother.

    Oh, that glare will be savored forever. ZoŽ smirked at Clara's expression.

    Ms. McClain pondered this concept for a moment. "Why I think you're right! Let me go tell father. Oh how exciting. And ZoŽ, donít worry about a thing, this'll be as casual as Uncle Freddie's welcome home party from jail." She clapped her hands, and ran inside her house to tell the spouse, and father of two, the good news. (Most likely interrupting the very last minutes of the game. And then, when she found it apparent he wasn't listening, turn off the television at a very critical moment to tell the males her plans. Finally leaving, and when the television once again turned on, they became saddened at the news of the greatest play in history, ruined by an over-zealous woman's wedding plans for her daughter. Ah, family.) This left a smug ZoŽ McClain-Liu, and a blanched Clara McClain.

    "You're gonna pay for that." Clara eyed her evilly.

    "Ah'm sure Ah don't know what yer talkin' about sugah." ZoŽ feigned innocence in her best southern accent, shook her feet dry, and walked into the house.

 

    It was warm, and soft. Everything ran in a slow thrum around the room, giving a soothing quality to the sleeping forms. Very warm. And very comfortable. The right conditions for a peaceful sleep. Ah, so very warm...

But anyone with family knows, this couldn't last forever.

    "Aieeeeee!!!" A small blur burst through the door, and ran around the room. After causing some noise, the miniscule figure, pounced on the bed, arousing the occupants. "Hiyas ZoŽ!!! Miss yer little cousin? I sure did miss you, and so did Rocko."

    "Oi," Was all she could mutter. " No Harold, I don't think I ever came across a time when I yearned for the company of an annoying, hyper child and his poor excuse for a dog. Rocko... You brought that mutt with you? And don't pounce so hard, I am pregnant you know." She eyed him form the covers, the blanket just below her eyes, which gave a her voice a muffled sound, but still with held it's perturbed sound.

    "I'll forget you said any of that dear cousin. I always knew you were never a morning person. And of course I brought Rocko with me! Silly ZoŽ!" He stood up on the bed, and patted his overly joyful cousin on the head, and ran out the room to bring more terror to the world.

    She groaned. "I knew I should have just paid for the tickets. Never shoulda come. The whole family's jus' gotta be here. Togetherness, they say. Togetherness my ass. It's way to early in the morning for thisÖ Or, er, afternoon. Damn jet-lag." Shang mummbled agreement, cuddled against her back, arm around her tummy.

    "Shoulda jus' stayed in Japan..."She whispered again, before falling back into a light doze. Which would once again, be interrupted.

    "Alright, get up you two. Mama McClain dunna raise a lazy girl, and that girl certainly didn't marry a lazy man. I heard from China, that one philosopher, now what's his name..." She pondered in her thinking pose; in words, hand on chin with thoughtful expression on face.

    "Confucius..." Shang yawned, and crawled out of the bed, heading strait for the bathroom.

    "Thata one. He said it best to get up early. Now, since you're inta that whole Asian thing, why don't you follow his advice ZoŽ?" The old women, with silver hair put on her sternest look, and after no response, dragged the comforter off, and sat down next to ZoŽ.

    "Grandma... Ever hear of jet-lag?"

    She patted her granddaughter's leg. "I know sweetie, but you've been sleeping for two days, and the reception's this evening. We have to get you fitted for your dress."

    "Uh, shouldn't that have been done earlier?" She sat up.

    "No dear. We just need a few adjustments." She kissed ZoŽ on the cheek. "Welcome home darling. No McClain can ever stay away for long."

    "Ah, just what I was hoping to do..."

    "What was that dear?"

    "Nothing! Nothing at all Mama McClain. I'm up. Just let me get dressed alright."

    "Sure dear." And she exited the room. After which, ZoŽ went into the bathroom to take her shower.

 

    "No."

    "But ZoŽ, sweetie, darling, it's a family tradition."

    "I don't bloody care, it's ugly, and I will not wear it."

    "And what's wrong with it?"

    ZoŽ turned around at her mother, and raised an eye brow. "Look at it mother. What person in their right mind would wear something that makes them look like a Pepto Bismal bottle? I simply will not wear it." She huffed, and crossed her arms.

    "I'm sure I don't see what youíre talking about. You look adorable. Just like when you were little..."

    "Exactly mother. I'm not a child anymore, and this makes me look like a five year-old." When her mother opened her mouth to reply, ZoŽ put on a stern look and closed the matter. "It's final mother. C'mon, drive me to China Town."

    "China Town darling? Oh lord... What am I ever going to do with you?" She buried in face in her hands.

    "Don't worry, that's Shang's problem now."

 

    The living room was filled to it's brim with every last member of the prestigious McCain clan to be found. Children chased around playing a silly game that somehow, included horse sounds and explosion noises only able to be produced near the dip. The teenagers were sitting on the couch, making a dramatic production of how much they would rather be doing something else than going to a wedding reception for someone that was married months ago. Geese, teenagers these days. Finally, the adults were spread everywhere, chattering in the typical Scottish fashion, and basically acting like all adults. The pets were hiding in fear of all the noise, and generally stayed upstairs, away from the party, where fate was just tempted to have someone step on the poor things. And, plaid was seen everywhere. Everywhere.

    "Oh lord..." ZoŽ bit her thumb nervously from her and Shang's position at the top of the stairs.

    "Hey, I'm the one who should be nervous. Do you know how much kilts chaff?" He adjusted the collar of his shirt.

    "Poor baby. But at least you're not pregnant and trying to wear a dress that's made for Asian women of different stature." She patted him on the head.

    "You gotta point there," he surrendered.

    "Well, I guess we have to go down sometime." She linked her arm through his. "Shall we?"

    He smiled. "Of course." And they trailed down the stairs to the living room.

 

    It had only been fifteen minutes, and ZoŽís feet already hurt.

    "Alright people," she raised her voice, "pregnant women that needs to sit down here! Either someone gives up their chair willingly, or they shall be forced. Your choice." All the men that had grown up with ZoŽ turned pale, and jumped at the chance to avoid the Wrath of ZoŽ McClain-Liu. "Much better," she sighed, and settled down into the fluffy chair.

    "ZoŽ McClain-Liu," a shaky voice called from the mass of people, "stand up, and step forward."

    ZoŽ went pale, and obediently rose. She grabbed Shang by the hand, and leaned in to whisper in his ear. "Uh, there's one part I forgot to tell you about. See it's this family tradition, and well, it's usually done before the wedding, but well, since we eloped..."

    "Hush child!" The voice said again, and she jumped back behind her husband, leaving him alone in a cleared space. The sea of people divided to reveal a man in a wheel-chair, holding his bag-pipe, and covered by a plaid blanket.

    "Now, since you've broken family tradition, I would be obliged to go extra hard on you. But since you've always been my favorite granddaughter-"

    "Great-granddaughter." She corrected.

    "Great-granddaughter, yes, I won't. Now, bring that husband over yer's over here. My eyes ain't what they used to be." He beckoned with his hand.

    And ZoŽ practically pushed the unwilling Chinese man to stand before her great-granddaughter.

    "Now, Shang, I have a few questions for you. You must answer correctly, or disgrace shall befall you, ZoŽ, and all of your descendants." He paused for ZoŽ to translate. "Alright, Shang Liu, question number one: Do you love ZoŽ?"

    "Yes."

    "Do you promise to take care of her and do her no harm?"

    "Yes."

    "Will you provide for your family?"

    "Yes."

    "And for the final question. Will you, Shang Liu," a tense air hung in the atmosphere of the room, as they waited for the dreaded final question. Shang held a steady look and stance, preparing himself, "teach my nurse how to really make fried rice? She always does it wrong, and it ends up totally wrong."

    Shang looked questionably at ZoŽ as everyone burst into laughter. When she translated, he smiled and nodded.

    "Alright ZoŽ, you have the blessing of the McClain clan. Now, about that recipe..."

    "It's been nice meetin' ya Shang. Glad to have you part of the family," Mr. McClain slapped his son-in-law on the shoulder, and everyone nodded in agreement.

    "Remember to call, or at least email ZoŽ. Can't be forgettin' yer parents lass." ZoŽís father continued.

"Sure thing Pa." And after the good-byes were said, and all the hugs were hugged, Shang and ZoŽ departed onto the plane en-route for Tokyo.

 

    The past three and a half months had been hectic ones. An enormous project at work had started for Shang, leaving very little time when he was home. ZoŽ tried to not let it bother her, and began decorating the baby room of their large condo, and bought clothes, toys, educational toys, a car seat, and other things to ensure an intelligent child that will succeed in Japanese society. Which really put a damper on Shang's bank account, but he got over it.

    ZoŽ had began working at home when she got too immobile to go to work every morning. Mr. Genki was nice enough to pull some strings to make this possible. But usually, she worked mostly in the morning, and spent the rest of her time lounging around, and for one hour each night, walking on the treadmill at the gym.

    To accommodate to the lack of Shang's presence, he bought a beeper just for ZoŽ to page him. It didn't need to be used often, but it still buzzed a few times each day with the message always scrolling, "Love you." How sweet.

    But today was being spent away from the office. Today, Shang was at the airport. His family was arriving to be there for the birth of the newest grandchild of Shang's generation. ZoŽ was at home, most likely eating some tortilla chips, balancing the bean dip on her large stomach mound, all the while watching the Japanese equivalent of soap operas.

    As the people began to file out of the non-stop plane from Beijing, Shang stood up from his seat at the terminal, and surveyed the crowd for the large, prestigious Liu clan. You could always find them easily. They were the twenty or so people of all age groups that were in a constant state of arguing. Ah, family.

    He casually bounded over to the pack, and greeted them. "Hello Grandmother, Grandfather, Ma, Pa..." And so he went down the line of hierarchy in his family, lastly ending with his youngest niece, Yinyue, and her twin brother, Yishu.

    "Where is ZoŽ?" his mother asked.

    "At home, resting. She been complaining of backaches, and that her feet have been hurting." He shrugged, and started walking away from the terminal, all following.

    "Shang!" His mother hissed. "Not taking care of your wife. Especially when she's carrying your child!"

    "How undutiful." His Aunt commented.

    "I've tried. But she's too stubborn. Now, who's going with Mui, who's going with Kin, and who's going with me on the ride home?"

    And the pack trailed through the airport, leaving curious glances in their wake.

 

    In car number one:

    "Shang, stop weaving through traffic. You need some patience."

    "Yes Ma."

    "You get it from your father's side of the family."

    "..."

    "I'm sure I do Ma."

    "He never was patient. Always weaving through traffic, and never able to wait for something."

    "..."

    "I think he has the patience in the family..."

    "What was that Shang? Speak up child."

    "Nothing Ma. Just talking to myself."

    "Oh. Is that healthy?"

    Sigh.

 

    In car number two:

    "So Mui, how's your mother?"

    "She's doing great Auntie An Mei."

    "How are you and your boy-friend getting along? Everything alright?"

    "Everything's wonderful. Actually, I'm pregnant with his child, and we're eloping after Zoe's baby is born. Whoops! Guess I spoiled the surprise! Silly me!"

    "...Pardon?"

    Smirk.

 

    In car number three:

    "How's work been Kin?"

    "Couldn't get any better Pa. Being a DJ's wonderful."

    "Found any nice young girls? I'm sure any son of mine would have no problem finding a nice young girl to settle down with."

    "Which you haven't seem to have done."

    "Actually, Pa, Auntie, I'm gay."

    "What?"

    "Yeah, I like men. I'm homosexual."

    Silence.

    "Good joke son."

    "Wasn't a joke Pa. I have a boy-friend too."

    Silence.

    "Well, now..."

 

    ZoŽ sighed, and dipped her carrot stick in the chocolate sauce. She was feeling depressed, and didn't exactly know why. Blame it on the mood swings. Yeah. Chomp!

    "Tha' some good chocolate..."

    Then, this utterly strange feeling overcame her. Her lower back began to throb, and send pain signals through her body, giving off painful spasms. Her face contorted from the pain, and she placed her hands on her back, trying to sooth the pain.

    Then her water broke.

    "Crap...!" She yelled as her first contracting hit full force.

    "Phone, phone... Dammit! Why can't Shang ever be around when I need him? Right... Well, there goes the expensive rug from ChinaÖ" She stopped for a moment at looked at the water spots on the rug, and went on in search of the phone.

    When found, she hastily typed in the numbers, her hands trembling form pain, surprise, and over-all anger at her spouse for making her go through this. "Bring-bring... Please leave a message after the tone. Once you have finished your message, you may hang-upÖor, press one for more options..."

    Beep! "Shang! I'm in labor. Get your yellow-ass down here, ah!" She screamed at another spasm. Then the machine hung her up.

    "Bring-bring..."

    "C'mon already! Finally! I wasn't finished! You are so gonna pay when you get here Shang! You just had to get fresh with me! That's it, you're sleeping on the couch for the next ten years! You hear-" Click.

    "Dammit! Screw this, I'm going myself!" She winced, and gripped the handle tight from the pain.

    Then, she packed a few clothes hurriedly, grabbed her keys, and stormed out the door.

 

    Shang ran into the maternity ward, practically knocking down doctors, nurses, and other anxious fathers-to-be. The Liu family trailed behind at a slower pace, and took seats in the waiting room as Shang talked to the receptionist.

    "ZoŽ McClain-Liu. She's my wife. Sheís pregnant. Why else would she be in here?" Shang answered the questions, more perturbed by the minute.

    "Ah yes, the American woman. Just follow the screams of hate and loathing at the male species down the hall. Or, she's in delivery room number five."

    He gave his thanks, and sped down the hall. But once he entered the delivery room, he almost wished he hadn't as a pillow barely missed his head.

    A very sweaty, angry, exhausted ZoŽ lie on the bed, nurses around her, dabbing her forehead.

    "Shang!" She screamed from another contraction. "Where the hell have you been you commie BASTARD!" She shrieked the last statement. And when he was in arms length, she smacked him a good one. "That's it... you're getting your own room... it's not worth it..." She panted out the last sentence, the contractions becoming more common.

    "Where's the doctor?"

    "Have yet... to see one," She sighed in a moments reprieve.

    "What?" Shang was shocked. "Wait here."

    Back in the delivery room, Shang walked to the receptionist. "Why the hell hasn't my wife seen a doctor yet? She's obviously very close to delivery! Where is the damn doctor? Or do I have to deliver this child myself?" He pounded a fist on the counter.

    "Sir, the doctors are tending to everyone in equal time. Your wife's labor is obviously-"

    "Bull shit! It's because she's American! Now you get a doctor in there, or I shall drag my wife to another hospital!"

The nurse's mouth curved into a thin line as the attitude of the hospital's staff was revealed in a not so subtle way. "As you wish. I'll find a doctor."

 

    "Mui..." ZoŽ panted. "Where'd Shang go?" She whimpered as her cousin-in-law dabbed her forehead.

    "Shhh, it's alright. He's finding you a doctor... Shh..." The younger woman gave soothing noises, and held her hand.

    Whimper, whimper. Wince, sigh. "Owie... Mui, never, ever get pregnant. It's not worth it." Whimper.

    Mui gave a half-smile to the statement, kissed ZoŽís forehead.

    Then, the doors burst open, revealing an American doctor, followed closely by Shang, whose determined, and furious look, softened immediately at the sight of his wife.

    He half-jogged to her side, and brushed the hair from her face. "It's gonna be alright ZoŽ. I found an American doctor." He kissed he on the cheek, and gave her a genuine smile full of pride. "You're doing great. "

    She smiled weakly, and whimpered. "Hello Mrs. McClain-Liu. I'm sorry I've been so late. I wasn't aware you were here. How months along are you?" He smiled at her assuredly, and spoke in English, obviously thinking it would give some sort of calming effect.

    " Eight months, three weeks. " She gave out breathlessly.

    He looked under her blanket. "Well, it seems you're fully dilated. How far apart are the contractions? Wonderful. Alright ZoŽ, at the next contraction, I want you to push. Give into the urge." He smiled wickedly, knowing she found it funny. "Alright."

    "Yeah..." She panted.

    "Okay, here we go... Push! Good, very good. Again ZoŽ! Push!" He directed her for the next few contractions, until she finally yelled at him:

    "I know already! Stop yelling at me!"

    The next few contractions went as smoothly as possible. Then, as ZoŽ began to grow on the verge of absolute exhaustion, good news came.

    "Alright, I see the head! You're doing absolutely wonderful ZoŽ! Just one more push, and you're done!"

    "Easy for you to say..." And she gave her last effort, before collapsing against the bed.

    "Congratulations Mr. Liu, Mrs. McClain-Liu. You have a perfectly healthy baby boy." The young doctor beamed down at the new parents, and deposited a bundle in ZoŽís arms.

    Beneath the folds of blankets, a tranquil, tomato face baby gurgled happily at his new parents, and gave a beautiful smile, as he clutched each of his parentsí fingers, one in each hand.

    "He's beautiful." ZoŽ sighed, and Mui murmured in agreement as she gazed down from ZoŽ's left to examine her new family member, but still far enough away to let the new family have their moment.

    "Is he supposed to be that red?" Shang asked in bewildered wonder at the tiny person him and his wife had created.

    "Hmmm. Yes."

    "He has a big head."

    "Shang! Sigh. He gets it from your side of the family anyway."

    He just kissed her forehead, and replicated the act with the new infant as he whimpered at the lack of attention. "You're amazing."

    "I know."

    And they were in bliss for a few minutes. When finally, Mui broke the silence.

    "What are you going to name him?"

    "Hmmm," ZoŽ gave a thoughtful moment to the subject. "Logan. Yes, that's perfect. Logan Erzi McClain-Liu." She smiled, and made baby noises and silly noises, rousing happy laughter form the baby.

    "Don't I get a say in it?"

    "Nope."

    "Oh bugger..." Shang smiled at the English word ZoŽ was so fond of.

    A few more minutes.

    "He doesn't do much does he?"

    "Nope. Not really. Sleep, eat, sleep some more, eat some more, and go poopy. That's about it."

    "Hmm."

    ZoŽ smirked.

 

    Logan had been taken to the part of the ward where the newborns were usually placed, and seemed to be fine.

ZoŽ had drifted off into a restful, deep sleep. Shang couldn't really blame her after what she'd gone through. She looked like a beautiful angel that glowed with a luminescence only new mothers had. He hair framed her delicate face, and glistened form the flouresent lights of the hospital room. Shang sat contentedly next to the bed in a chair, admiring his wife, and the new developments.

    Shang was truly glad to have ZoŽ. He would never have imagined he'd end up with such a woman for a spouse, but he now realized he couldn't live without her. It had only been a bit over a year ago he had first lain eyes upon the plain American intern with the sparkling gray eyes that seemed as if she knew secrets he never would. He was truly happy. Truly.